Weekly Pro Wrestling Rankings April 20
April 20, 2018
By: Mike Johnson
Every week here at FITE, we feature the Top Ten ranked personalities in the world of professional wrestling. Unlike other combat sports, pro wrestling cannot be measured in just wins and losses, especially when the drama and excitement of the genre is specifically based around not just the physical performance, but the excitement level created by its combatants. Thus, our top ten measures the most newsworthy performers in the business, who's momentum drives not just their own career paths but the promotions they compete for.
1. Brock Lesnar
He was supposed to be exiting, the narrative stated. He was supposed to be returning to UFC, the reporters claimed. Pundits and observers expected that WrestleMania 34 would climax with the coronation of Roman Reigns as the new king of World Wrestling Entertainment, but instead, Brock Lesnar stood triumphant. In a world built on hype and hyperbole, Brock Lesnar shocked even the most die-hard insider by exiting the biggest show of the year as the WWE Universal champion, leaving seismic waves of shock in his wake and a bloody Reigns prone in the center of the ring. The FITE rankings are built on the most newsworthy talents of the week and by breaking with all tradition and expectation, Brock Lesnar pulled off a superhuman effort in reversing the natural order. He destroyed all expectations and forever shook up the system. There has never been anyone as worthy as he to reign atop the rankings, especially when one considers the ramifications of what could come next. When no one knows, that's the type of scenario that engages the audience and prints money.
For all the hype for Ronda Rousey's WWE in-ring debut and the future of Brock Lesnar, Charlotte Flair was the one who built upon the legacy of her famous father by doing what he did every night during the territory era of professional wrestling - she put in the work. When it comes to the presentation of classic, big-time professional wrestling matches, it is seemingly impossible to argue that Flair's battle with Asuka for the Raw Women's championship wasn't just a women's match for the ages, but a classic battle that will stand the test of time when compared against any WrestleMania showdown. With her championship against the undefeated streak of The Empress of Tomorrow, Flair made her greatest stand yet on the WWE battlefield and in doing so, enhanced her own personal legend. When the mythology of the WWE women's division is recounted for generations to come, this match will have been the measuring stick for all that came before and since, and only one combatant had her hand raised following an excellent, groundbreaking performance - and that was Charlotte Flair.
Of course, there is glory is losing in professional wrestling, especially if the performance that leads to the loss makes the performer mean something greater to the audience. Asuka had been undefeated for her entire World Wrestling Entertainment run, but she had also, for the most part, been untested, presented in a way that showcased her power and might and aggressive nature inside the ring. The one thing that her on-screen persona needed was to be tested, and at WrestleMania 34, not only was she tested, but Asuka came up short. It was the best thing that could have happened to the Japanese star. Asuka took the fight to Charlotte in a way that helped present their championship match as a legitimate contest and in losing, provided a new direction for herself, one where she needs to avenge her loss. In giving Asuka something and someone to hunt, WWE propelled her to the next level, creating a unique situation where in taking the loss, she means more, especially now that Smackdown is her hunting ground. The future is bright for Asuka.
4. Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns' career will one day be dissected and debated, because he is the perfect example of a performer who does everything right yet continues to fall short in the overall scheme of things. Reigns should be the champion that all are measured by, yet once again, he is not the champion. He is the hardest working performer in all of WWE, yet a massively vocal contingent continues to reject him in every aspect. He should have walked out of WrestleMania as the Universal champion, but instead left his blood, sweat and tears stitched into the canvas of the squared circle and as a character, was again unfulfilled in his hero's journey. Reigns' work, however, is enough to continue to enrapture those who support and jeer him. The quality of his battle against Brock Lesnar helps him retain his positioning in the FITE rankings leading into the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, which may literally become his last stand effort in returning to the upper echelon of both WWE's Raw brand and the FITE rankings.
5. Ronda Rousey
The rookie of the year award has already been handed out, and it's going to "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey. The former UFC Bantamweight champion was placed into the deep end of the pool for her WWE in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34 and didn't just float, she lapped everyone else in the ring. Whether it was the climactic moment of making Stephanie McMahon tap out or striking away at Triple H in the corner as he cowered in fear, Rousey showed the world that she wasn't just entering the ring as a money grab or even as a celebrity attraction, but to perform the unique artform that is professional wrestling. Given the deluge of media attention that Ronda brought to professional wrestling, there is no way she cannot be considered one of the most newsworthy and important figured in the FITE rankings. While Rousey's combat sports career has been full of dark clouds and question marks in recent years, the sun shined through with her tag team victory, providing Rousey with not only a "WrestleMania Moment" but a new chapter in life. If that isn't the type of performance that changes the paradigm of professional wrestling, what could be?
6. AJ Styles
If there was one guarantee leading into WrestleMania, it was that AJ Styles was going to have a classic match against Shinsuke Nakamura at the Superdome in New Orleans, yet it didn't happen. While Styles vs. Nakamura was certainly a watchable bout and set the stage for the first chapter in their rivalry, it was not the moment that fans expected, where Styles would plant his flag and showcase himself as one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the world. Thus, the WWE champion, even in victory, slides down the FITE rankings. With all the changes following the second annual WWE Superstar Shakeup, Styles' potential challengers and opponents inside the ring are stacked, which places him in the launch position, a rocket waiting to throttle through the sky, leaving amazing memories and matches behind. This week, however, Styles remains outshined by others, patiently waiting for his chance to break through and capture the top of the FITE rankings.
7. Daniel Bryan
WrestleMania is a marathon event for both performers and the audience alike and if there was one man who could be charged with burning out the audience, it was the returning Daniel Bryan. Weeks removed from being medically cleared to return to action, the former WWE champion was a demon possessed inside the ring in the Big Easy, taking the fight to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn during their tag team bout. If anyone carried the WWE audience on an emotional roller coaster that night, it was Bryan, who feigned being injured right out of the gate only to use his crisp timing and perfect in-ring skills to save Shane McMahon in route to victory, bringing out some of the most viscerally happy moments in recent WWE memory in the process. With Bryan back in action full-time for the Smackdown brand, not only is there a new measuring stick for in-ring action, but for emotional fulfillment of all wrestling fans. Bryan raised the bar and one suspects he will raise his profile in the FITE rankings in the days and weeks to come.
It take a great villain to make a great hero. Hulk Hogan had Roddy Piper. Sting had Ric Flair. Ronda Rousey had the most unlikely of them all, Stephanie McMahon. While McMahon holds all the power politically within World Wrestling Entertainment, it is undeniable that she is also a tremendous performer on screen. The one area she may have remained untested, however, was the WrestleMania stage - and indeed, her tag team match against Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey was her official in-ring debut at a WrestleMania event. McMahon played her role with perfect excellence, giving the audience the foil that Rousey needed for her indoctrination into the professional wrestling world. That sort of performance should never be ignored, because every yin needs a yang and in being the Darth Vader to Rousey's Luke Skywalker, Stephanie finds herself in the most unlikely place she ever expected - hitting the FITE rankings for the first time ever.
Since coming to the United States, fans have been waiting for Shinsuke Nakamura to match and surpass the excellence seen during his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It has been a long wait as even with a NXT championship run and more recently, a Royal Rumble victory, Nakamura has yet to truly break out the way many have hoped and predicted. It was believed that the perfect time to do so would have been WrestleMania 34 against AJ Styles, a bout for the WWE championship, the company's longest running and most important title. Instead, the bout landed in the middle of the list of most impressive bouts and it appeared the moment had been lost.... until a well-placed low blow ruined Nakamura's attempt to show respect to Styles, the victor. Since then, Nakamura has exemplified all the old school aspects of a foreigner villain while also - perhaps finally - morphing into the Superstar that the audience has been waiting for. Be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it, just not in the way that you expected. Nakamura, for the first time since January, is finally out of the neutral position.
10. The Undertaker
It wasn't long, and it wasn't even pretty, but The Undertaker's return was monumental, and it was massive. For weeks, John Cena had been calling The Phenom out, leading to WWE presenting a series of twists and turns before The Undertaker emerged on the WrestleMania stage, tombstoning Cena into hellacious infamy. While the Undertaker is slated for the Greatest Royal Rumble, where he is guaranteed yet another victory, he returns to the FITE rankings not based on wins and losses, but because his very decision to appear brings excitement. With every slow step he takes towards the ring, The Undertaker charges the atmosphere with electricity, pumping pomp and circumstance into the air. That is the sort of greatness that is not trained for or bred, one is just born with it. The future of the Undertaker will not likely be a lengthy one - after decades of performing, how could it be? - but the future Hall of Famer remains one of the most important and newsworthy performers to ever grace the FITE rankings.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider.